SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED review

Starring: Aubrey Plaza (Scott Pilgrim vs. The World), Mark Duplass (Zero Dark Thirty), Jake Johnson (21 Jump Street), Karan Soni

Director: Colin Trevorrow

Writer: Derek Connolly

Runtime: 1 hour 26 minutes

Release Date: June 8 (US), December 26 (UK)

Well, this one took a long time to cross the pond. And upon arrival here, it’s only playing at one theatre at one time for less than a week here in Edinburgh. It’s a real shame too, as Safety Not Guaranteed is a heart-warming hilarious ride that should be getting a much wider distribution here than it is.

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While inspired by a real want ad, this story is in no way based on true events; that should become pretty clear once this movie gets into it’s third act. But this film has an incredibly original tale to tell, which is thanks to an incredibly simple but funny script. The film has a very sardonic sense of humour that keeps you entertained through a movie that feels surprisingly long and deep for a film that runs shorter than an hour and a half. You’ve probably seen similar films to Safety Not Guaranteed, but not one quite like this. The only negative I can say is that some might find the ending abrupt and disappointing, but I think it was the best way they could end it without becoming too corny or ridiculous.

The cast of the film is mainly made up of the actors you usually see playing bit-parts in much larger films, but everyone puts in great performances here. Aubrey Plaza is perfectly cast in a part that seems made for her deadpan style of humour. She makes this character seem much more engaging than if played by a much broader actress and even manages to get a lot of emotion out of it. Mark Duplass is also great as the aspiring time traveller Kenneth. He nails that fine balance between quirky and crazy, making sure you like the character whilst never forgetting that this guy is totally nuts. Johnson and Soni have great comic chemistry together and their B stories could be entire movies in and of themselves. There are some much bigger names in the film in small cameos, but I won’t ruin those for you considering the advertising doesn’t.

The film has a very simple but beautiful look to it. It has that first feature feel, but it is never distracting. The cinematography isn’t there to show you some fancy shots for no reason to make this film look more expensive; it just captures what it needs to and lets the story and characters carry the film. The music has the kind of indie feel you expect from a movie like this, but it really does fit here and isn’t distracting like it can be in other similar films.

In conclusion, Safety Not Guaranteed is a wonderful motion picture that needs to be seen by all indie film lovers out there. If you enjoy films like Little Miss Sunshine or (500) Days of Summer, this will be right up your alley. Trevorrow and Connolly are genuinely fresh new talents that will hopefully get much more work after this, and I hope this film at least develops a strong enough cult following to keep it alive.

FINAL VERDICT: 9.5/10

RISE OF THE GUARDIANS review

Starring: Chris Pine (Star Trek), Alec Baldwin (Beetlejuice), Hugh Jackman (X-Men), Isla Fisher (Wedding Crashers), Jude Law (Sherlock Holmes)

Director: Peter Ramsey

Writer: David Lindsay-Abaire (Oz: The Great and Powerful)

Runtime: 1 hour 37 minutes

Release Date: November 21 (US), November 30 (UK)

Dreamworks’ latest creation slams together the characters of our childhood into one movie to do battle against evil. Is it The Avengers of animated movies, or does quantity ruin the quality?

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The story of Rise of the Guardians is pretty standard fare. You’ve got your newcomer introduced to a new world that he wants no part of until he realises his true calling so he can come back and save the day. Sound familiar? This wouldn’t be so noticeable if the main character of Jack Frost was made more interesting, but he isn’t. They hint at this lost backstory of his throughout the entire movie, which is intriguing at first, but then they tell you and you’re left wondering, “That’s it?” The film has all the standard messages to kids about believing and standing up to fear, but doesn’t put an interesting enough twist on them. The movie does at least move at a fast pace and I was never really bored.

The characters of the film are varied and distract enough from the bland story. Chris Pine does a decent job at playing Jack Frost, but it’s the writing that really fails him. Alec Baldwin and Hugh Jackman are great as Santa and the Easter Bunny, providing interesting and funny twists on these well-known icons, whilst the silent Sandman provides some good visual gags. Jude Law’s Boogeyman is also visually interesting with his powers, but his shtick feels like it came straight out of Loki’s pocket. Law can play bad guy well, but he really could have come up with own way of doing it here.

What Rise of the Guardians lacks in story, it makes up for in visuals. The film has some really great designs, making these familiar characters and environments feel fresh and new again. The film is full of colour and magic, which is sure to entertain the kids it’s aimed at. The music is suitably fantastically, and the 3-D is actually well used here to augment the action.

Ultimately, Rise of the Guardians has some great concepts but ultimately needed a much more original story to make it seem more like the fresh idea it genuinely is. It is by no means bad and will be sure to entertain the family, but it probably won’t end up an animated classic in the vein of Toy Story or Shrek.

FINAL VERDICT: 7.5/10

THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY review

Starring: Martin Freeman (Sherlock), Ian McKellen (X-Men), Richard Armitage, Hugo Weaving (The Matrix), Andy Serkis (Rise of the Planet of the Apes)

Director: Peter Jackson (The Lord of the Rings Trilogy)

Writers: Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, Phillipa Boyens (The Lord of the Rings Trilogy) & Guillermo Del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth)

Runtime: 2 hours 40 minutes

Release Date: 13 December (UK), 14 December (US)

Well, we’re back in Middle Earth. It took Peter Jackson long enough, but he’s brought Tolkein’s tale of a hobbit on an adventure to fight a dragon to the big screen at last. Does it live up to its lofty expectations, or has it become tragically afflicted with Phantom Menace Syndrome?

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The story of The Hobbit is a much simpler tale than The Lord of the Rings, but one Jackson still felt needed to be told in three parts. While this does give the film time to tell the entire story, it has a serious affect on the pacing of the movie. The film’s first act is heavy with character introductions and exposition, and while it improves once the quest begins the pace does lag occasionally there too. There are too many unnecessary scenes that should have been cut out and left for the Extended Blu-Ray (I’m looking at you, pointlessly shoved in Elijah Wood!), and there’s also way too much foreshadowing to the original trilogy. But if you enjoy the tales of Tolkein, you’ll still find it as faithful to the source material as Jackson’s previous efforts.

The cast of the film is vast, and it’s good that they found a good Bilbo Baggins in Martin Freeman. He plays the role with such innocence and charm that he’s hard not to like; a good change of tone compared to Wood’s almost emo portrayal of Frodo in Rings. Ian McKellen is as good as ever, slipping back into that wizard’s robe as if he never took it off. The dwarves, meanwhile, are hard to crack. They all look visually distinctive, but I still found it hard to remember most of their names. They just don’t have much character development and most of them are only memorable beyond appearance by one-note character traits. The rest of the cast are mostly cameos, but Andy Serkis steals the show once again in his brief return as the treacherous Gollum. Certain characters, such as Thranduil and the Necromancer, feel like they’re mainly here to establish them for the later films, and Smaug is barely seen but effectively so. The film just lacks the camaraderie the original team had, but hopefully the next two will embellish on that.

Controversy has surround Jackson’s decision to shoot the film in 48fps instead of the traditional 24fps since those mixed reactions came out of Cinema Con, and while certain complaints are valid I found it an interesting experiment. My main problem with it is that it occasionally causes the film to look like it’s been sped up (I refer to it as “The Benny Hill Effect”), and this effect becomes jarring constantly. Otherwise, it does what it’s advertised to do: it puts you more in the action and helps the 3-D to come alive in a more impressive way. Beyond tech details, the film is a visual masterpiece. The cinematography is grand, the designs incredible, and the visual effects are better than ever despite being overused. The score, whilst repeating a few too many tunes from the original trilogy, is still an epic score and makes me continue to wonder why Howard Shore doesn’t compose for more movies.

In the end, you’d have probably gone to see this movie no matter what I said. But I’m here to say that you’ll have a good time when you do. It is nowhere near as good as The Lord of the Rings, but I never thought it would be. Hopefully, the kinks in the armour of An Unexpected Journey will be ironed out and polished to perfection when the time comes to see both The Desolation of Smaug and There and Back Again.

FINAL VERDICT: 8.5/10

JACK REACHER review

Starring: Tom Cruise (Mission: Impossible), Rosamund Pike (Wrath of the Titans), Werner Herzog (Grizzly Man), Richard Jenkins (The Cabin in the Woods), David Oyelowo (Rise of the Planet of the Apes), Robert Duvall (The Godfather)

Writer/Director: Christopher McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects)

Runtime: 2 hours 10 minutes

Release Date: 21 December (US), 26 December (UK)

I had the great honour of attending not only the world premiere of Jack Reacher, but also getting to go to a special Q&A with Tom Cruise, Chris McQuarrie and Lee Child. It was a very special evening, but was the movie up to scratch? The film has received controversy from Reacher fans since Cruise was cast, but I’m happy to report that Jack Reacher is a fantastic film that should not be missed.

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The film opens with a literal bang: the sniper sequence at the start of the film is truly shocking and well-executed. There’s no dialogue for a good 5 minutes, but once Reacher enters the picture the film shifts into high gear. McQuarrie has done a great job with the script as he always does, keeping the film both serious but also full of witty humour. The film has a very 70’s feel to it, reminiscent of classics like Bullit or The French Connection; this is a breath of fresh air as we rarely see that type of movie these days (with the exception of Drive). The plot of the film isn’t the most original, but has enough twists and turns to keep the two hour plus runtime from feeling stale.

Whilst I’ve never read any of the Jack Reacher novels, I understand why fans are upset of the casting of Tom Cruise as a character he in no way matches the description to. But get past that and you’ll find that Cruise can pull off the role of Reacher to great effect. He’s menacing, can handle himself in all forms of combat, and yet also has a good sense of humour. He’s like if The Driver, Bryan Mills, Steve McQueen and Sherlock Holmes were blended together and then injected into Cruise’s blood stream. The rest of the cast is also great; particular stand outs being Werner Herzog in a brief but still bone-chilling performance as the main antagonist Zec, and Robert Duvall, who still shows he can act with the best of them.

McQuarrie directs the action in Jack Reacher in the way more action films need to be shot: from a reasonable distance. No quick cut, can’t-tell-what-I’m-looking-at stuff going on here. These scenes are further amplified by the fact they never play any music during these scenes; it’s just punch impacts and gunfire. It really emphasizes the rawness of the scenes and puts you into the action. Speaking of which, the score itself isn’t particularly memorable but it’s effective, whilst the cinematography does a good job of covering the action.

In conclusion, Jack Reacher is a terrific action-thriller that will please both film fans and hopefully fans of the books too. It has certainly made me want to pick up the books, and I hope Cruise and McQuarrie reteam to make more of these films in the future. It’s not exactly Oscar worthy, but it’s a hell of a lot of fun.

FINAL VERDICT: 9/10

SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK review

Starring: Bradley Cooper (The Hangover), Jennifer Lawrence (The Hunger Games), Robert DeNiro (The Godfather Part II), Chris Tucker (Rush Hour)

Writer/Director: David O. Russell (The Fighter)

Runtime: 2 hours 2 minutes

Release Date: 21 November (US, UK)

Silver Linings Playbook may well be my favourite movie of the year. Go see it. Like, right now. What are you still reading this for? Go and watch the movie! You’re still here? Fine, read my review and then go see it.

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If I were to sum up Silver Linings Playbook in a nutshell, I would describe it as a romantic comedy starring mental patients. Seriously, the characters of Pat (Cooper) and Tiffany (Lawrence) are two of the most bi-polar, easily angered people I’ve seen in any film. But their main flaw is the film’s greatest strength, as it constantly provides us with both comedic and dramatic situations that can rival any film that only attempts one. The story is formulaic, but it provides enough little twists that it never becomes completely predictable. The film takes a while to get going, but trust me. Once it gets going, you won’t want it to stop.

The performances in this film are phenomenal across the board. I never thought that Bradley Cooper had this much range, but he pulls off the task of playing a psychological mess without fault. Equally matching him is Jennifer Lawrence; I’ve always known she was a great actress, but this makes her previous performances seem like a warm-up. The film truly lightens up whenever they are on screen together, helped by the great script written by Russell. DeNiro gives a great supporting performance as Pat’s dad who is equally nutty and (I never thought I’d say this ever) Chris Tucker is great as Pat’s friend from the mental ward. Why he hasn’t been doing movies like this his entire career, I don’t know.

The film has an odd visual style, one which can grade at times but isn’t bad at all. The cinematography makes constant use of fast zooms and twirling around people. I hate to say it but every time they’d zoom into someone’s face, I expected Mike Myers to chime in with an “EXTREME CLOSE UP! WOAAAAHHHHH!” I was surprised to learn that Danny Elfman did the score, because his music is usually quite memorable but I never actually noticed it here. Again, these are by no means bad things; they’re just minor odd details I noticed.

I never thought I’d see a movie this year that could rival my love for The Cabin in the Woods, but Silver Linings Playbook could well be my favourite. It’s got a great story and stellar performances, and deserves plenty a nod at the Oscars in February. Excelsior!

FINAL VERDICT: 10/10

THE MASTER review

Starring: Joaquin Phoenix (Signs), Phillip Seymour Hoffman (The Ides of March), Amy Adams (The Fighter)

Writer/Director: Paul Thomas Anderson (There Will Be Blood)

Runtime: 2 hours 22 minutes

Release Date: September 14 (US), November 16 (UK)

I have to admit this: before tonight, I’d never seen a PT Anderson film. I’d always heard about how great his films are, but never actually got round to watching any of them. It’s embarrassing when you know more about Paul WS Anderson than PT Anderson, but that changed tonight. After watching The Master, I’ve got some catching up to do.

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The story of The Master is a simple tale told strangely. Those wondering about the Scientology element, it is obvious how The Cause is a metaphor for it but the film doesn’t try to beat you over the head with it or even tell you it’s bad. The film has an odd quirkiness to it, which while giving it a unique feel makes it feel off-putting at first. The film does a great job of making you care about these characters who, for all intents and purposes, are a bunch of liars and maniacs. This is mainly thanks to the performances, which I’ll get onto in a second. But my main problem with the film is this: the film is too slow and too long. I know I’m not a fan of films that stretch over 2 hours, but this film can feel like an eternity at points. The way the film uses long continuous takes can really stretch out the pace and would often have me thinking in my head “CUT!” I’ve heard this is a trademark of Anderson’s and, while it is effective during certain scenes (especially one set in a jail cell), I found it more boring than moving.

The Master truly shines in the acting department. We haven’t seen Phoenix in a while, and his comeback is a truly explosive one. The character he plays is a washed-up, beaten down, psychotic alcoholic, and Phoenix plays it perfectly. You truly feel that he is this character. Some may say he’s just doing the world’s greatest Popeye impression, but there is much more to it than that. Truly outshining him though is Hoffman as the charismatic Lancaster Dodds. Hoffman plays the role so charismatically that you understand why these people follow him and see him as a genius, which makes it even more surprising when he lashes out in anger. Hoffman definitely deserves an Oscar for his performance here, and Phoenix could easily get a nod as well. Amy Adams is also great as Dodd’s wife, and it’s also good to see that Laura Dern still exists (seriously, where has she been since Jurassic Park?).

This film is beautifully shot, mainly thanks to the use of 70mm film. If you have the option to view the film in this format, do. It truly makes the film look like a relic from the 50’s; giving you that extra detail and making those colours pop out extra nice. As said before though, I think the film could have been cut down a lot more in the editing process, and I often found the score to be a bit overbearing.

The Master is a great film, and should be seen by any film fan. This is one the Oscar crowd are going to eat up come February and, while I do think the film is flawed in several ways, I can understand why they’d love it. It’s worth seeing just for Phoenix and Hoffman, but you’ll enjoy it for much more than that if you’re willing to invest the time and patience.

FINAL VERDICT: 9/10

SKYFALL review

Starring: Daniel Craig (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), Naomie Harris (28 Days Later), Javier Bardem (No Country for Old Men), Judi Dench (My Week with Marilyn)

Director: Sam Mendes (American Beauty)

Writers: Neal Purvis & Robert Wade (Casino Royale), John Logan (Hugo)

Runtime: 2 hours 23 minutes

Release Date: 26 October (UK), November 9 (US)

It’s been a while since 007 checked into theatres. After the magnificent reboot that was Casino Royale, the disappointing Quantum of Solace quickly followed. The big question on everyone’s mind is which camp does Skyfall fall into? Well, I’m positively delighted to inform you that not only is Skyfall a thousand times better than Quantum, it’s one of the best outings Mr. Bond has ever seen on the silver screen.

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As usual, I’m not going to spoil anything but I can say that the plot of Skyfall is great. It’s an interesting and intriguing tale of revenge, resurrection and betrayal. If you like classic Bond films, this movie has it all. You like car chases; it has several. You like explosions; there are loads. You like dry post-kill one-liners; there’s an abundance. There are many references to the old Bond films from obvious to obscure that should keep fans smiling throughout. The film’s pace in enthralling, making its long runtime pass by in an instant. By the final moments of Skyfall, you will remember why you love Bond so much.

Craig steps back into the role of James Bond and doesn’t miss a beat; he’s as good as ever. The film takes plenty of time to humanise Bond again, ignoring the superhuman machine he was in Quantum. He even gets in a few jokes without making it feel like we’re in a Roger Moore film. Harris delivers well as mandatory Bond girl Eve, and she has some great chemistry with Craig. Dench keeps up her high standard from all her previous Bonds and delivers her most heartfelt performance as M ever. Ben Whishaw is amazing as Q, playing on the youthful aspect of his portrayal well while still channelling the late great Desmond Llewelyn. But the standout here is Javier Bardem as the villain Silva. Bardem takes the cliché Bond villain and makes it fresh again, delivering a threatening yet comical performance in a similar vein to Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight. This isn’t a man out to take over the world. This is a man who wants his revenge and will take down anything and everything to get it, even himself if he has to.

For a guy who’s mainly known for doing dramas, Sam Mendes is a great action director. The set pieces here are phenomenal, straddling that fine line between classic, ridiculous Bond and new, grounded Bond. You could question some of the logic, but it looks so well done that you don’t care. This is mainly thanks to the gorgeous cinematography courtesy of Mr. Roger Deakins. This film looks beautiful on every level, using lighting and shadows perfectly to make every moment and location feel unique. Scenes set in Shanghai and the final moments in the moors of Scotland look particularly terrific. Deakins also understands something most action directors don’t get these days: when shooting a brawl, you keep the camera pulled back so you can see everything. The Expendables, this is not. Top it all of with a great score (though I’m still not too fond of Adele’s theme for the film), and you’ve got a presentation that skyrockets this film’s quality immensely.

Mr. Bond has reported for duty, and he has served us well. Skyfall is not just an amazing Bond film; it is an amazing film in general. The film makes Bond feel relevant and new without forgetting what made those old Bond films work. It’s not the Bourne rip-off that Quantum of Solace often felt like; this is a James Bond film through-and-through. Sam Mendes has set a high bar for the films to follow, and I can’t wait to join 007 on his next adventure, whenever or wherever that may be.

FINAL VERDICT: 10/10

SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS review

Starring: Colin Farrell (Phone Booth), Sam Rockwell (Moon), Christopher Walken (Pulp Fiction), Woody Harrelson (Zombieland)

Director/Writer: Martin McDonagh (In Bruges)

Runtime: 1 hour 50 minutes

Release Date: October 12 (US), December 7 (UK)

Seven Psychopaths is the second feature from former playwright Martin McDonagh, who wrote and directed the Oscar-winning short Six Shooter and the feature In Bruges. With this new outing, he continues his penchant for making crime films with a very quirky sense of humour and makes what may be his best work yet and one of the best films of the year.

The plot of the film is pretty preposterous, but considering the outlandish tone of the film it fits. The film moves along well, mainly thanks to it following the Airplane! rule of comedy: keep throwing jokes so fast that the audience doesn’t notice the duds. The film is incredibly quotable and full of memorable moments, making for a script that never stops delivering. The film also uses meta humour, though not as blatantly as something like The Cabin in the Woods or Scream. The film uses this brand of comedy to deconstruct the thriller genre, often mimicking events that eventually play out in the film. This is most often seen in reconstructions of scenes from Marty’s (Farrell) screenplay or someone telling a gruesome tale, and all of them are so ridiculous that you won’t stop chuckling. All I can say negative (and it doesn’t detract points because it’s not the film’s fault) is that the trailer does lie quite a bit, but it’s one of those rare cases where it’s done to keep some of the film’s mysteries quiet instead of trying to make something crap look better.

The cast of Seven Psychopaths is phenomenal and all deliver great performances. Farrell gives one of his career bests, Walken is consistently laugh out loud hilarious (though I often wonder how aware of it he is), Harrelson plays f***ing nuts to the nth degree, and Tom Waits is pretty funny too in his brief role. But the standout here is Sam Rockwell. Everything that comes out of his mouth is funny, quirky and utterly insane. He’s the kind of character that if played by another actor and badly written could become just an annoying prat, but Rockwell and McDonagh know how to keep it reeled in just enough that it remains humorous. Rockwell’s performance easily rivals his performance in Moon, and that’s saying something.

Comedies are hardly ever the most technically astounding movies, and Seven Psychopaths is no different. While the film is very violent and features some creative kills, this isn’t exactly Die Hard but it’s not trying to be. The movie does have a pretty decent soundtrack, but other than that there’s not much to say, but that’s most certainly not a bad thing.

Seven Psychopaths is one of the best movies of the year. I know I’ve been saying that a lot in my past few reviews, but I mean it. The film is furiously funny and cleverly uses it’s humour to pick apart the classic Hollywood thriller. You’d have to be an utter psychopath to miss this one.

FINAL VERDICT: 10/10

ARGO review

Starring: Ben Affleck (The Town), Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad), Alan Arkin (Little Miss Sunshine), John Goodman (The Big Lebowski)

Director: Ben Affleck

Writer: Chris Terrio

Runtime: 2 hours

Release Date: 12 October (US), 7 November (UK)

Ah, Ben Affleck. You’ve had an interesting career, haven’t you? After getting your start in Kevin Smith films, you won that Oscar for writing Good Will Hunting with Matt Damon. Then something happened, didn’t it? You were in a bunch of crap like Pearl Harbour and Gigli before disappearing for a little while. But then you came back and decided to be a director. We all laughed at first, but then your movies Gone Baby Gone and The Town ended up being absolutely brilliant. So with Argo, you’re attempting to get that third straight home run. Did you succeed?

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The story of Argo is so unbelievable that it has to be true, and luckily it is. The tale is extremely intriguing and it’s hard to believe that the CIA actually managed to pull this off. The film effectively uses classic thriller-style tension to create a genuine feeling of uncertainty, and also has a really good sense of humour that never feels too out of place (“You want to be a big shot without actually doing anything? You’ll fit right in!”). The film is also paced very well, making the two-hour run time fly by swiftly. All of this is down to Affleck’s strong direction. With Argo, the man manages to prove he can direct pretty much anything with a level of competency most full-time directors would envy. If he can keep it up, Affleck could easily be up there with Clint Eastwood in a couple of years.

Not a man to put himself completely out of the spotlight, Affleck also starts as protagonist Tony Mendez. While it might have been wise for him to focus on his directorial duties (as well as the fact that Affleck bears no resemblance to the real Mendez), he delivers an effective performance. But it’s the supporting cast of the film that really shines. Bryan Cranston shows he can be as commanding a presence on the big screen as he is on TV. John Goodman and Alan Arkin provide some great laughs as the primary comic relief. And Scoot McNairy appears as one of the fugitives, again showing he has a bright future in film.

Argo is a technically proficient film. The cinematography is gripping, and not just because it effectively matches the real footage of the hostage crisis. The editing is fast and fierce, but not so much so that the film becomes incomprehensible. The score works well, and the film makes great use of the music of the 70’s for certain scenes.

Well Mr. Affleck, you did it. You’re three for three, and it just so happens that your third is also one of the best films of 2012. I’m predicting some major Oscar nods come nomination time. Who knows? Maybe you’ll be up on that stage in February collecting that golden statue yet again. Good on you, sir.

And you were the bomb in Phantoms.

FINAL VERDICT: 9.5/10

THE SESSIONS review

Starring: John Hawkes (Winter’s Bone), Helen Hunt (As Good As It Gets), William H. Macy (Fargo), Moon Bloodgood (Terminator Salvation)

Director/Writer: Ben Lewin (Georgia)

Runtime: 1 hour 35 minutes

Release Date: 19 October (US), 18 January (UK)

I got the great opportunity to go to the UK premiere of The Sessions last night; director Ben Lewin and stars John Hawkes and Helen Hunt were in attendance and gave a Q&A afterwards. But enough of my bragging, how was the movie? Simply put, The Sessions is one of the best films of 2012 and needs to be seen by anyone who enjoys film.

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The story of The Sessions is, while based on a true story, humorously absurd. The film is very well written and full of some cracking quotable dialogue (“Why go to Germany? It’s the only place in the world where having a sense of humour is illegal.”) The pace of the film is just right; not so fast that it flies by, but not so slow that you start checking your watch. But the main reason the film works is because it makes the main character of Mark (Hawkes) completely sympathetic and compelling. It’s easy for a film like this to just go “He’s disabled, so you have to like him”, but the film makes Mark such an interesting character that he would have been a great protagonist if he had been a perfectly healthy human being.

But the main reason Mark works as a protagonist is because of the powerhouse performance of Hawkes. For an actor who spends the entire movie only moving his head, he brings so much to the table here that you can’t help but cry “Give this man an Oscar!”. Just as great is Hunt in the role of Cheryl; she greatly compliments Hawkes and they have really good chemistry. By the end of the movie, you are really hoping that their relationship will work out, but you know it can’t. As the main comic relief of the film, William H. Macy is fantastic as Mark’s priest. His deadpan delivery and incompetence create some knee-slapping moments that help to alleviate the more heartfelt moments.

On a technical level, there’s not much to say. The film is shot well, but there’s no amazing camera work. The music is fitting, but not exactly memorable. But The Sessions isn’t that kind of film; it’s trying to wow you with its drama, not its technical wizardry.

I can’t say this enough: The Sessions is one of the best movies of the year and should be seen at your earliest opportunity. The film doesn’t open for a while in the UK, but as soon as it does get to the theatre. You won’t regret it.

FINAL VERDICT: 9.5/10